The International Rugby Board (IRB) was founded in 1886. With its headquarters in Dublin, the IRB is the world governing and Law making body for the Game of Rugby Union. The IRB has several main functions including:

  • Governance of the Laws and Regulations and their enforcement
  • Tournament owners and managers
  • Global game development through Member Unions funding via grants and Strategic Investment programmes, and delivery of Education & Development programmes
  • Game promotion

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE IRB STRATEGIC PLANS >>

IRB Development Programmes

Find out more about the IRB's Development Programmes:

In English 
In Spanish
In French

CLICK TO VIEW A MAP OF PLAYER NUMBERS ACROSS THE IRB'S REGIONAL ASSOCIATIONS AND MEMBER UNIONS >>

IRB Charter

The IRB Charter provides a checklist of how the Game should be played and approached, in order to maintain the unique social and emotional principles that underpin it.

Download the IRB Charter (PDF) by clicking on one of the links below:

IRB Charter (EN)
IRB Charter (ES)
IRB Charter (FR)
IRB Charter (IT)

IRB Charter (JP)
IRB Charter (RU)
IRB Charter (ZH)


The day to day business of the Board is conducted by a professional staff of over 50, the majority of whom are based in Dublin. Personnel employed around the world includes Regional Development Managers, High Performance Managers and Regional General Managers working in Europe, Asia, Africa, The Americas and Oceania.

Rugby is played by men and women, boys and girls, in more than 100 countries across five continents. The IRB membership currently totals 101 Unions in full membership, 18 Associate Members and six Regional Associations.

The IRB Council, under the Chairmanship of Bernard Lapasset, meets twice a year. It consists of the eight foundations Unions each with two seats - Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France. Argentina, Canada, Italy and Japan each have one seat on the Council as do all the Regional Associations.

An Executive Committee meets on a regular basis in order to formulate and oversee the implementation of the IRB Strategic Plan, monitor performance and implement good corporate governance principles and practices.

The full membership meets at a General Meeting convened every two years. Regional meetings are held at regular intervals.

There are a number of tournaments under IRB control, including the Women's Rugby World Cup, Rugby World Cup Sevens, HSBC Sevens World Series, IRB Junior World Championship, IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy and IRB Nations Cup. The principal IRB property is, however, Rugby World Cup.

Rugby World Cup

Rugby World Cup (RWC) is the financial engine which drives the development of the game world-wide. The revenues from RWC provide the IRB with the funds which are distributed to the Member Unions to aid and assist them in the expansion and development of the game.

Rugby World Cup Limited, under the control and direction of the IRB, is the owner of all rights associated with the Tournament.

The inaugural Rugby World Cup was held in New Zealand and Australia in 1987. The first winners of the Webb Ellis Cup were New Zealand. In 1991 Australia were the winners at Twickenham; South Africa, as hosts, were the winners in 1995; in 1999 Australia won the Cup for a second time at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

2003 saw the first northern hemisphere winners - England - in Sydney, but the trophy returned south in 2007 when South Africa became the second team to win two Rugby World Cups with their victory in the Stade de France, Paris. 

RWC 2007 attracted 2.2 million ticket sales, 1.8 million website hits and record television viewing figures through broadcast exposure via 238 channels around the world. The cumulative TV audience was estimated as 4.2 billion.

From the quarter-final stage onwards the matches were completely sold out and the qualifying pool stages set a new record for average crowd attendance at 48,500.

RWC has now become established as one of the most important sporting events behind the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.